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September 26, 2021

Streets deteriorating as roadwork costs rise

Report: More funding necessary to maintain streets

Gilroy’s current approach to funding roadwork is inadequate, and if more money isn’t spent now on fixing the streets, it will only become more expensive in the near future.

Such was the conclusion of a presentation given by city engineers Gary Heap and Nirorn Than during a meeting of the Gilroy City Council on March 8.

Gilroy has roughly 124 miles of roads within its city limits, with a value of $220 million, according to Heap.

Its Pavement Condition Index (PCI), which is used to determine the condition of roads, is at 62 out of 100, or considered “fair.”

However, it has dropped 14 percentage points since 2012, and seven since 2017, putting Gilroy at an “inflection point” where the PCI is expected to drop at a much quicker rate, causing rehabilitation costs to drastically increase, Than said.

Preventative maintenance on streets considered “good,” such as chip sealing and micro-surfacing, is estimated at $3 per square yard, while failed roads must be completely rebuilt at a price of $80 per square yard, according to Than.

Examples of failed roads in the city include Luchessa Avenue east of Monterey Road, and San Ysidro Avenue from Home Depot to No Name Uno.

If the city continues on its current annual roadwork budget of $1.8 million, the PCI is expected to drop to 59 in 2025, Than said, with deferred maintenance costs jumping from the current $33 million to $55 million in five years.

A “blended” approach, recommended by city staff, would increase the budget to $3.5 million annually, while maintaining “good” roads and putting more funds into rebuilding “failed” streets.

But finding the extra money within the city’s limited funding sources will be a challenge, Heap said, with the goal to bring back a financial plan to the council in May.

Mayor Marie Blankley said fixing the roads should be one of the top priorities for the city, adding that it is “grossly unfair” to residents to continue letting streets deteriorate.

“What we have been doing up to now has been failing us,” she said. “When you have such a small amount that you’re putting toward something that costs so much more, you’re stuck with just trying to keep the better streets in shape.”

Councilmember Dion Bracco, who has spoken out many times on the state of Gilroy’s roads over the years, said the issue will continue to get “worse and worse” unless a stronger approach is taken.

He pointed to San Ysidro Avenue, the main route to St. Louise Regional Hospital, as one of the worst roads in the city, with ambulance drivers having to “hold the patient down on the gurney because the potholes are so bad.” Bracco noted that he has received assurances from city staff over the years that the road will be repaired, yet it is never fixed.

“I haven’t seen any effort on the city’s part to change this and get this fixed, unless this council decides to get tough and say, ‘here’s the money, make it happen or there’s going to be consequences,’” he said, adding that he supports the “blended” approach to funding roadwork over the next five years.

According to Heap, San Ysidro Avenue is scheduled to be rebuilt from Home Depot to No Name Uno this summer, with a cost of nearly $1 million.

Once a five-year paving plan is approved by the council, Heap said it will be posted online to show residents which roads are scheduled for maintenance work.

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